The HGV Medical Exam: What to Expect as a Driver
If you are considering or have already begun the process of becoming a HGV driver, you will know there are a number of stages to get through before you can get behind the wheel safely. For many aspiring and even experience commercial drivers, the biggest hurdle in securing or renewing their license is the medical exam.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) requires all HGV drivers to be in good health to operate commercial vehicles on public roads for the safety of the driver and other road users. To determine this, all drivers must complete a HGV medical examination which is made up of two parts; an interview around your physical and mental health and a physical examination, along with your D4 medical form paperwork.
If you’ve never been through it before, the medical exam might seem a little daunting. The following guide will show you exactly what it entails and give you all the information you need regarding the health requirements and steps to complete your medical.
What Does a Driver’s Medical Involve?
Every new driver must undergo an HGV medical exam with accompanying paperwork (D4) that is submitted to the DVLA. Experienced drivers are als required to undergo a new medical exam each time their licence comes up for renewal. The requirements are the same regardless of what type of licence you are looking to get or renew.
The HGV medical is comprised of two parts:
Discussion: You will have a chat with your GP or private physician who will go through your medical history in depth and give you the chance to raise any existing conditions you think might impact your ability to drive safely.
Physical Exam: You will then undergo a physical exam which will assess your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate), vision and general health. The entire exam usually takes no more than 30 minutes and the doctor will fill out a form for the DVLA as they go.
The most important fact to know is that the doctor cannot assess there and then whether you are fit to drive a commercial vehicle, they simply complete the D4 medical examination form. This form will be sent directly to the DVLA with confidence, which means you won’t be able to see it until you receive your results. You can request a copy from the DVLA once the process has been completed.
What will the Doctor be looking for?
Your GP will assess your health in line with the DVLA medical requirements. The physical examination will cover the following health issues:
Impaired eyesight: All HGV Drivers must be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20 yards, either with or without glasses or contact lenses. If you do need glasses, your prescription needs to be no higher than +8, and your vision needs to be 160 degrees or above. If you’re not sure what your vision is like, make an appointment to see your optician.
Neurological conditions: Neurological problems can have serious consequences for any driver. A physician will examine the HGV student and ask questions relating to things such as epilepsy, seizures, blackouts, memory problems, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, narcolepsy and cataplexy, stroke, prior brain surgery, or any chronic neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis.
Mental health: HGV drivers must also be in good mental health. Doctors will want to discuss all sorts of mental health issues including depression, hospitalisation for psychiatric issues, dementia, cognitive impairment, etc.
Heart conditions: Any heart problems that aren’t being controlled and treated are going to raise red flags on a medical exam. That’s anything from heart attacks, angina, stroke and even atrial fibrillation. If your condition is being treated and managed properly, then there shouldn’t be any sort of issues, but there are some exceptions.For example, you can’t drive within 3 months of having heart bypass surgery, or within 12 months of a stroke or unexplained period of unconsciousness.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a very common illness and affects around 9.5% of the population, so it’s not something that’s going to stop you from becoming an HGV driver by any means. All you have to do is demonstrate that you can keep it under control. This usually means you will need to record twice-daily glucose testing, and if you have insulin-treated diabetes you’ll need your most recent 3 months of glucose readings stored on a personal meter, ready to produce on request.
Sleep disorders: A leading cause of serious accidents among HGV drivers is a lack of sleep. Therefore, the HGV medical exam includes looking for signs and symptoms of sleep disorders. This is one area in which candidates must be especially honest. A sleep disorder does not necessarily mean automatic disqualification. As long as the disorder can be managed, the candidate should be able to proceed.
Alcohol and drug usage: It is illegal to operate an HGV with drugs or alcohol in the system. Knowing that it is almost impossible for a chronic alcoholic or drug user to hold an HGV driving job. During the HGV medical, a doctor will look for any signs of chronic drug and alcohol use.
How much does the HGV medical exam cost?
Your medical exam will be done in one sitting, and can be done by any NHS care provider or a private physician. However, there is no DVLA mandate saying these have to be done for free, so you may need to pay a nominal fee.
Before setting up an appointment with your GP, it may be worthwhile to see if there is a cost involved and if so, consider an approved private physician with a reduced wait time. There are also numerous companies specialising in driver medicals that use local doctors to get you through the process quicker. Whatever option you choose, the average charge for an HGV medical is likely to be between £56-£63 including VAT.
Please be aware that with the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and inevitably a backlog of healthcare appointments, GP appointment waiting times may be longer and therefore HGV medicals will need to be booked in advance. Not having your HGV medical up to date will prevent you from taking on new work.
Do you need support renewing your HGV medical?
At System Group, we ensure all our existing and trainee drivers are fully equipped and ready for a career in logistics. Our experts are available to guide you through the entire process and have a wealth of information on each stage of becoming a driver.
System Group cover the cost of the driver medical for learners on our Driver Academy and Apprenticeship courses. We also partner with a number of leading logistics employers for commercial courses, many of which also include a fully funded medical exam as part of the employer package.